In this context, IP does not stand for Intellectual property or IP address.
The IP Code, International Protection Marking is also known as IEC 60529 rates the degree of protection against intrusion, dust, and water by the LDM’s casing.
Why is the IP value of a laser distance meter very important?
The naked values of the IP resistance value do not always indicate the guaranteed reliability of the devices in difficult weather conditions. It turns out that behind this standard a few tricks hide. Autumn and winter provide the ideal setting to report on the shortcomings and limitations of this standard.
Who needs the information on the degree of protection?
We do not know the exact percentage of buyers who buy laser meters and need resistance to rain and dust. Four out of five customers are likely to be around. Most of the time this question does not appear until the end of a conversation about a special device – if the right model is searched for. This shows, however, that the IP value is important for the users. This is not surprising because, on the construction site, a building laser can come into contact with concrete, a laser distance meter falls into the sludge or a cross-line laser is covered by a layer of gypsum dust.
One can not deny it: in a time when the technological development of practically all measuring instruments slows down, the manufacturers use the resistance against adverse conditions as an argument for potential buyers. The use of the IP standard is partly still prestigious – it is shown that the manufactured product meets the generally accepted international standards. However, we also want to mention that the construction required to meet the standard results in relatively high costs. And these costs increase, the higher the IP value.
The use of the IP standard thus offers tangible advantages for the manufacturer of a measuring device, the dealer and for the user. For the former, it is an excellent argument in the struggle for the customer. As a further practical advantage due to the greater reliability of the devices sold.
What do the codes of the IP value mean and what about protection?
The derivation of the IP value (the abbreviation is sometimes attributed to the term International Protection or Ingress Protection) is not difficult. Let us briefly explain at this point that the value consists of two digits. The first figure shows the resistance to solid-state and the second represents the resistance to the penetration of water.
The first code of the IP code defines the protection against foreign bodies and the protection against contact:
|DIN EN 60529
|Protection against objects
|Protected against solid objects with diameters of 50 mm
|Protected against the access of the back of the hand
|Protected against solid foreign objects with diameter from 12.5 mm
|Protected against access by one finger
|Protected against solid foreign objects with a diameter of 2.5 mm or more
|Protected against access by a tool
|Protected against solid foreign objects with a diameter of 1.0 mm
|Protected against access by a wire
|Protected against dust in a damaging amount
|Complete protection against contact
|Complete protection against contact
The second digit of the IP code provides the protection against water:
DIN EN 60529 Protection against water
|Protection against water
|Protection against dripping water
|Protection against falling dripping water when the housing is tilted up to 15 °
|Protection against falling water up to 60 ° against the vertical
|Protection against all-around splashing water
|Protection against water jets (nozzle) from any angle
|Protection against strong water
|Protection against intermittent submergence
|Protection against permanent submergence
|Protection against water during high pressure/steam jet cleaning, especially agriculture
Sometimes the letter X appears in the description. This is often understood as a lack of protection against a given factor. However, this is a misinterpretation! For example, if we take the IPX7 standard, it means that the device has not been tested for solid bodies for any reason. However, this does not mean that the device is completely defenseless against them. The performance is difficult, even though the instrument could dive deeply, water can penetrate into the interior or – let’s say – sand.
What does the protection class say about building lasers? What are the important facts for practice?
You should note that the default IP values have some important limitations. Even if you buy a construction laser that meets the highest standards, it does not mean that it can withstand anything.
See what you can do with a building laser that has an IP value of 68.
The standard to the IP value defines some but not everything
Detailed rules for the award of the IP code were written in the IEC 60529 standard of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). This document consists of almost 100 pages. It describes the rules of certification of devices to achieve a certain level of protection. For example, in order to achieve the product standard IPX6, the device must exceed 3 minutes from a distance of 3 m at a pressure of 100 kPa and an amount of 100 liters per minute.
The problem is that the role of the IEC is limited to the production of the standard. This organization does not perform any certification tests and does not verify the correctness of classifications.
This raises the question of whether the customer can blindly trust the manufacturer. Was the test carried out by the manufacturer or a specific laboratory in accordance with the Commission’s guidelines? Was a measuring device from mass production used for this purpose or was it possible to use a tuned, fired or tampered device? And finally, the question arises whether such a test ever took place?
Reading online forums shows that in the case of some measuring instruments (especially some rather exotic brands) the above questions are quite justified. Why should not be swindled when declaring electronic devices?
What can I do as an interested person or customer? One possible way could be to check the manufacturer’s data. You would, therefore, have to check who, when and how the tests have been carried out in accordance with standard 60529. With a request to the manufacturer, you can get this information possibly. You can also consult your supplier about the compatibility of the instrument with the international standards. It is time to see whether he is doing it credibly or whether he can convince very little.
It is possible to include consumer protection if the information on the measuring instrument is questioned.
The Leica Disto X310 is equipped with a model with an IP65 resistance, which also covers falls or a mud bath. The corresponding laser measuring meter to Leica’s Disto X310 for the American market is the Leica Disto E7400x.
Aging is not provided
Even if a manufacturer is honest and tests the laser measuring instruments correctly, it must not be forgotten that these tests are carried out according to the IEC 60529 standard on brand new equipment in the laboratory. Over the years, measuring instruments are aging because they are subjected to various physical and chemical processes so that the tightness of the housing is inevitably reduced. It is clear that the IEC specification only applies to new devices. The IEC standard does not determine or measure how long a device meets the IP class specified by the manufacturer.
If the device is to be used for a long time, special attention should be paid to parts made of rubber (seals, keyboards). Over time, they can become brittle and break down.
Not only water and dust …
The IP value suggests resistance to external influences. In fact, however, it gives only the resistance against the penetration of water and dust! In addition, there are several other factors that the standard does not consider, but which under unfavorable conditions can nevertheless affect the measuring instrument, damage it or even completely destroy it.
Here are the most important:
- Moisture – How? The IP marking does not apply to moisture? Well, no! The second digit refers to the penetration of water. But what is my water vapor? Or with water condensing inside the unit, causing temporary or permanent damage? The transport in a closed damp bag should be able to withstand a building laser already. The moisture inside the housing of a rotary laser can already be lethal to the electronics. Remember that wet instruments should not be transported in closed boxes.
- Crashes – Manufacturers and sellers of measuring devices often state the extent to which an instrument can be dropped and then still useable. These are usually 1 – 1.5 m, which correspond to the typical application height when usually held in the hand or on a tripod. The question of the resistance to the impact of falls is very delicate – because what is the use when the case of construction lasers is ready for operation, but the measurement results are no longer correct.
- Vibrations – The manufacturers of the devices partly integrate mechanisms that protect against vibrations over long periods of time. If a measuring device is to be used on heavy construction machines, on engines or in industrial plants, such a feature may be important.
- Temperature – Although a temperate climate prevails in Central Europe, temperature differences are often considerable. Depending on the location, the extremes reach up to -30 ° C in winter and + 40 ° C in summer. If the temperature were not measured in the shade, the summer value obviously would be even warmer. There are not many measuring instruments that can be used in such a broad spectrum. The manufacturers specify the temperature range in which a building laser works properly. Some go a step further and also provide acceptable storage temperatures. This temperature range is understandably broader than that of the application temperature.
- Salinity – As a driver, the perishable influence of salt on the body is known. This substance can destroy the housing of measuring instruments or electronic connections. Under normal circumstances, a building laser does not come in contact with salt. The salt from the road surface hardly comes to our equipment. However, when working in a salt mine or near the sea, when purchasing equipment is drawn to the resistance of the meter to sodium chloride.
Military standards – alternative to IP value?
The list of harmful factors can be further extended to several or even a dozen individual points. Thus, it is found that the IP value only shows in a narrow range of the strength of the measuring device.
Because of the steadily growing popularity of such standards was developed by the US Army MIL-STD-810. The term refers to a whole number of factors – not just to dust and water as well as to the temperature. Other factors are, for example, an acid shock, rapid acceleration, acoustic stimuli or even fungi! In short, a measuring device that would withstand any operation of the US Army anywhere in the world. Of course, the standard MIL-STD-810, as well as the IP value, has its limitations and disadvantages. But this is a topic for another contribution.